Racist? Kansas City Voters Approve the Removal of MLK's Name from Historic Street

Residents of Kansas City voted overwhelmingly to remove the name of Martin Luther King from an historic boulevard. Nearly 70 percent of voters approved the ballot measure, which undid the action of the city council less than a year ago when they changed the street name from "The Paseo" to "Martin Luther King Boulevard."

Are there really that many racists in Kansas City?

The Hill:

The proposal made its way onto the ballot after several Kansas City residents pushed to restore the street’s original name, The Paseo. The residents collected 2,857 signatures in April to put the measure before voters, well surpassing the 1,700 needed.

Supporters of the proposal say the City Council pushed for changing the street’s name without following proper procedures and ignored The Paseo’s historic value in the process.

Supporters of renaming the street after King had accused opponents of the name change of being racist, the AP noted, setting up Tuesday's showdown at the polls.

The city government ignored the will of the people and acted arbitrarily. The people pushed back. They wanted their old street name that held special significance for residents.

You might guess that the law of averages made it probable that a few of those 70 percent of voters who approved the ballot measure were indeed racist. But really, are you guys pulling my leg?

This sort of thing happens all the time in towns large and small across America and it has nothing to do with racism. We call it "democracy" and it's lovely to behold.

Even supporters admit the council flubbed it.

USA Today:

Mayor Quinton Lucas – who introduced the resolution to name the road in honor of King as a councilman, said the way the issue was handled had been "less than ideal" and that he had learned how much "process matters."

"People want to make sure that we engage with enough different community stakeholders, and I think it's fair to say that did not happen," Lucas told WDAF.

He added that moving forward, "it's important for us to recognize this wasn't so much a repudiation of the Dr. King name" as about a failure to bring people together.

Those in favor of the change were passionate about their cause:

Save the Paseo member Diane Euston said the boulevard "holds kind of a special place in so many people’s hearts."

"It’s not just historical on paper, it’s historical in people’s memory. It’s very important to Kansas City," she said. Euston said the movement to restore the name had brought people from across the city together, reflecting King's "message of unity."

"We want to make sure he's honored, but not at the stake of people who didn't have a say," she said. "Today I am so proud of our city."

Martin Luther King was a great man, a towering historic figure of the 20th century. It should be noted that Kansas City is one of the few cities in America that does not have a street named in King's honor. But this was not the way to rectify that situation -- running roughshod over the feelings and sensibilities of people.

King, one of the canniest politicians of his era, would never have tried it.